Tuesday 14 September 2021

In May 2021, we were asked to give an online lecture to the British & Irish Furniture Makers Online (BIFMO) and the Furniture History Society (FHS).

The history of campaign furniture, the different types of makers and those who used it along with its eventual demise are all discussed and well illustrated. Sean is introduced by Adriana Turpin of BIFMO and, following the lecture, questions are taken from the audience. 

Click on this link to watch the lecture:


Thursday 1 April 2021

 Our latest exhibition Receiving Orders is now on our website.

Search Receiving Orders to see all 70 exhibition items or sit back enjoy a video walkaround the show.

Tuesday 9 March 2021

At the beginning of February 2021, we gave a lecture to Stow Civic Society entitled Journey To Another World. This was an adapted version of a lecture that we gave during Stow Art Week to accompany our exhibition Illuminating India.

The lecture was recorded and can now be seen our You Tube Channel at this link:

Journey To Another World

The talk lasts about 50 minutes and in it we look at how people travelled to India in the 19th century, who went, what they took with them to make the long journey more bearable and the companies that outfitted them.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

LAPADA Leaders Webinar

 We were recently asked to take part in a live LAPADA Leaders Webinar to discuss campaign furniture.

The title of the talk was Toys For The Boys (and Girls). Tim Bent of Bentleys and Alan Hatchwell of Hatchell Antiques also took part and talked about the luxury luggage makers and aeronautical and industrial design antiques respectively.

If you would like to watch the three of us discussing our passion for the antiques we deal in with Freya Simms of LAPADA, you can do so on the LAPADA You Tube channel by clicking on the image below.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

A walk around our exhibition The Salute

Our exhibition The Salute has just opened online, due to the lockdown but we though you might enjoy a walk around it with commentary.

Grab a drink, sit in your favourite chair and enjoy a 20 minute exhibition of campaign furniture and travel related antiques.

All the items are on our website, with descriptions and professionally taken photographs.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

Brighton Buns - Ingenious Folding Candlesticks for Travellers Written by Nicholas Brawer

 Cast Brass Brighton Buns
Cast Brass Travelling Candlestick

From approximately 1735 through 1925, explorers, travellers, military officers, and European Royalty all employed a distinctive type of folding candlestick on their journeys.  Perhaps because of their resemblance when packed for travel to a now-forgotten English pastry, these candlesticks are colloquially and affectionately referred to today as 'Brighton Buns.'

A Brighton Bun consists of two drip-pan bases that screw together in such a way that they form a circular bun.  When unscrewed, the bases divide into two equal halves, revealing two loose candle cups.  When upturned, the drip pans form the bases for two chamber candlesticks into which the candle cups are screwed.  The candle cups are sometimes embellished with ring turnings, flared lips, or ejector slits through which the candle stubs may be removed.  The more elaborate Brighton buns contain conical snuffers.

The bases of these elegant and useful travelling chamber candlesticks range in size from approximately 3 ¼ inches to 6 inches in diameter:  Brighton Buns were made by casting, spinning, or pressing brass, bronze, and copper; rolling and spinning Britannia metal; hammering or pressing silver; or turning wood on a lathe.  Examples have been recorded in a variety of woods, ranging from olivewood, yew, and elm to ebony and Karelian birch.  By the early twentieth century, the traveller could order Brighton buns plated in silver, covered with 'Russia leather', 'American cloth,' or, for the more affluent, 'Crocodile leather.'
Karelian Birch Candlesticks

John Caspall has observed that 'Soon after their introduction, and in their early years, Brighton buns were invariably cast from brass or bronze, were always quite heavy, and carefully lathe-finished... Much lighter 'basin-halves' were formed by pressing from sheet material, and the rims were sufficiently thickened by rolling to permit a fine circumferential thread to be cut.'

Although the majority of Brighton buns currently on the market are of English manufacture, and more often than not made from pressed or cast brass, they were in fact made in a variety of countries, including Germany, Austria, and the United States.
Britannia Metal Mikitary Candlesticks by James Dixon & Sons

During the height of British imperialism, travelling brass candlesticks found their way to some of the farthest corners of the Empire.  They were considered essential travelling kit by such early explorers of the Canadian frontier as David Thompson (1770-1857), a geographer who was based in Rocky Mountain House, a fur-trading post on the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta, British Columbia, at the turn of the nineteenth century.  In A History of Rocky Mountain House, Hugh Aylmer Dempsey published lists from early nineteenth century invoices and inventories that show the kinds of goods shipped by the North West Company's Columbia Department for the Indian trade in Montreal. In addition to axes, blankets, belts, garden seeds, ivory combs, playing cards, chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, cloves and camphor requested for the years 1807-1808 there is an entry for 'candlesticks, brass camp.'

Not only were Brighton Buns used by senior officers in the British army and intrepid explorers of the Canadian frontier, but also by European royalty.  An exceptional pair of sterling silver Brighton buns engraved with the monogram of Queen Charlotte Sophia, the consort of King George III (r: 1760-1820), and bearing hallmarks for 1808, appeared on the market in 2000.  Franz Joseph I, emperor of Austria (r: 1848-1916) was an avid collector of lighting devices that were popular in Austria and the Alpine countries from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries.  Among the devices in his collection was a pair of Brighton buns that Franz Joseph's cataloguer called a 'traveller's candleholder, which when opened and put together, provides two candle sockets and two bases.'

Brighton Buns were also popular in America during the Civil War and well into the late 19th century.  Illustrations of 'Camp Candlesticks' appear in the Catalogue of Arms and Military Goods published by the New York military furnishers Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, in 1864.  Similarly, in 1896, the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island, illustrated a 'Travelling Candlestick' in their Catalogue of Sterling Silverware.

Though the Army & Navy Co-operative Society, arguably the most popular military and colonial outfitter of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, did not include Brighton Buns in their Price List of 1881, by 1907 they were offering Brighton Buns for sale under the catalogue headings 'Barrack Furniture and Camp Equipment,' where they are referred to as 'Brass Folding Candlesticks.'  They were also offered for sale through the Ironmongery Department, where they are described as 'Military, brass.'   At the same time, under the heading 'Stationery Fancy Goods,' they offered 'Travelling Candlesticks' covered in 'Russia leather,' 'Crocodile Leather,' 'Brass, 3 3/8 in. diameter,' 'Brass 3 7/8 in. diameter,' and 'Silver, 3 5/8 in. diameter.'  Similarly, around 1910, Harrod's Supplementary Export Price List offered 'Brass Candlesticks,' both 'large' and 'small' under the catalogue heading 'Barrack Furniture and Camp Equipment Department.'  Brighton Buns were still being advertised for military use by the Army & Navy Stores as late as 1925, when a pair of 'Brass Folding Candlesticks' is illustrated in the catalogue in the 'Barrack Furniture and Camp Equipment Department.'

In 1787, A. Hepplewhite and Company published its belief that 'to unite elegance and utility and blend the useful with the agreeable has ever been considered a difficult, but an honourable task.' Brighton buns realize this maxim to the letter.

Nicholas Brawer is the author of British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas, 1740-1914, published in 2001 by Harry N. Abrams, and was the curator of Britain's Portable Empire: Campaign Furniture of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian Periods, an exhibition held in 2001 at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York. Nick has a shop in New York at 28 East 72nd Street at Madison Avenue.
Silver Brighton Bun Candlesticks dated 1839.

The examples of Brighton Buns illustrated here are ones that we have sold. Further examples of travelling candlesticks can be seen on our website by searching 'Brighton Bun' or clicking on this link.

Williams Tonks & Sons connection to Campaign Furniture.

Williams Tonks & Sons connection to Campaign Furniture.

Our father Christopher Clarke was born in Birmingham to a long line of medical for-bearers however, part of the family tree relates to Henry Tonks. You can follow the link for more in depth information but he was a surgeon whose family owned a brass foundry in the city and was also famous for teaching art at Slade School of Fine Art with Rex Whistler being one of many of his notable pupils.

      The foundry Henry Tonks' family owned were called William Tonks & Sons and though maybe not as well known as Coalbrookedale and Archibald Kenrick were one of the largest and most prolific metalware making companies in Great Britain during the 19th century.  If you are interested in marked metalware do look at Vin Calcutts excellent  The Old Copper Website  and you can read up more on the Tonks Foundry. there as well as identifying other marked metalware.

As you will know, if you are familiar with our website, with Birmingham being the workshop of the world in the 18th and 19th century here and across the country there were a vast amount of metalware manufacturers producing a vast array of goods that could be used for travelling or by makers of campaign furniture.
        Firstly, items in brass and iron such as beds and chairs such as the wonderful folding iron bed  and the iron duoro chair in our last catalogue. As well, as this we have had showers and items such as washstands and shelves which brass components.
        Secondly, there will be the component parts of chests, tables, bookcases etc that have iron or brass fittings. Flush handles, brass strapwork, escutcheons, brass ferules, thumb bolts and threaded fittings to brass hooks and hinges etc.

      So how do William Tonks & Sons fit into picture of what was being produced that could be useful to the campaign furniture cabinet maker or traveller?  Unlike specialist makers such as Winfield or Hoskings who made specific finished items ready to be retailed Tonks made a huge amount of different items that other manufacturers could use in their designs as well as items for use in a more architectural context such as door knockers, window latches  and door plates.
      We have seen W T & S items such as table clips, handles and hinges so it would be reasonable to assume that they also made campaign handles and brass strapwork for campaign chests. Strapwork would not be marked and most campaign or military handles (if they are marked) are marked on the back so you would not know unless you removed them. Interestingly, our father on a visit to the USA over 40 years ago spotted Tonks hinges on an American late 18th bureau bookcase. Tonks exported world wide so pieces of their metalwork will appear on colonial furniture possibly misleading the uninitiated  into thinking the piece is English.
       The box below was certainly English and had hinges by William Tonks.

    We have handled a few other pieces which could be classified as campaign or travel. One of the most iconic pieces of campaign equipage would be the Brighton BunTonks made a nice example of these which we know because they marked the outside of the dishes. Generally, when we see them of this size they tend to have pressed dishes and light weight sconces. The Tonks examples which would predate these have case dishes and sconces and though small feel more substantial.

           Another piece of brass ware we usually have in stock would be the Walkers Patent hooks. First patented in 1864 they continued to be made into the 20th century and can still be found in William Tonks catalogues of this date. On the earlier examples which come in several sizes they will be stamped Walkers patent 1864 to the front and those made by Tonks will have the WT & S mark to the back alongside the sun motif they used during the period.

At present we have a stylish pair of candelabra marked WT & S which are designed to be screwed on to a wooden base. It is possible that they could have been for use on board ship where falling candlesticks could be particularly dangerous.

William Tonks Candelabra

William Tonks & Sons were an important company who produced an extensive collection of items cast in brass and also in cast iron many of which turn up for sale on a regular basis. They have been somewhat overlooked as a company worthy of research and we can only hope that this small article may be the beginnings of rectifying that situation. As mentioned the company continue into the 20th century when in 1970 they merged with Newman Brothers which was also later bought up by Ingersoll-Rand.  Interestingly, the Newman Brothers and Tonks legacy survives in the form of the Coffin Works  museum which featured in the first BBC series Restoration in 2003. 

As more items come to light this page will be updated with further information.

Simon Clarke